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6228: This Week in Haiti 18:39 12/13/00 (fwd)
"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
December 13 - 19, 2000
Vol. 18, No. 39
RENEWED MOBILIZATION TO SEND "TOTO" CONSTANT BACK TO HAITI
In the wake of a ground-breaking human-rights trial in Haiti, a
broad coalition of human-rights organizations and grassroots
groups has stepped up its efforts to demand the immediate
deportation or extradition back to Haiti of Emmanuel "Toto"
Constant, a CIA agent who headed the paramilitary Front for the
Advancement and Progress of Haiti known as FRAPH.
The FRAPH has been cited in countless human rights and press
reports as the organizational umbrella for death-squads which
terrorized Haiti and killed an estimated 5000 people during the
three-year coup d'état in Haiti from 1991 to 1994.
In November, the Haitian government successfully completed the
trial of 36 soldiers and 23 FRAPH members for the massacre in
Raboteau, a Gonaïves shantytown where 15 people were gunned down
on April 23, 1994. Constant and 36 other military and
paramilitary leaders were convicted for murder in absentia.
Since 1996, Constant has enjoyed de facto political asylum in the
United States, living comfortably in or near Queens, New York.
Under a 1996 deal struck with the Immigration and Naturalization
Service (INS), the State Department, and the CIA, Constant stays
out of jail, gets work papers, checks in once a week with the
INS, and in return promises to clam up about the services he
rendered the CIA and U.S. government during the coup (see Haïti
Progrès, Vol. 14, No. 13, 6/19/00).
The "Send Toto Back" coalition will hold a candle-light vigil in
front of the INS Headquarters in New York, where Toto checks in
every Tuesday, at 26 Federal Plaza on Broadway in downtown
Manhattan on Wed., Dec. 13. The rally starts at 4 p.m. and then
marches three blocks to the U.S. Federal Courthouse at 500 Pearl
"What is this man doing in the United States?" asked Reed Brody,
advocacy director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) at a Dec. 11 press
conference announcing the rally. "Why has he not been extradited
or deported back to Haiti? How can we say that we oppose
terrorism when a man who sowed terror in Haiti is allowed to walk
on the streets of New York? How can we say we support human
rights when we shield this human rights abuser from justice?"
Brody also called on Washington to return "immediately and
without redaction" the 160,000 documents taken by U.S. troops in
1994 from Constant's FRAPH and from Haitian military
headquarters, "documents which Haitian prosecutors have sought to
recover for the past six years in order to bring charges against
Constant and his military and paramilitary accomplices." The
documents, which Washington has refused to return in their
entirety despite repeated Haitian government requests and a
world-wide petition signed by over 30,000, are seen as crucial to
establishing proof of FRAPH's involvement in Haiti's coup crimes.
"It is galling that many of the very people that Constant chased
out of Haiti to the U.S. are illegal in the eyes of the INS while
Toto Constant is allowed to work," said Ray Laforest of the Haiti
Support Network (HSN) at the press conference.
Washington has argued that it will not honor Haiti's extradition
requests for Constant because he would not obtain a fair trial in
Haiti. But Ron Daniels, executive director of the Center for
Constitutional Rights (CCR), pointed to last month's Raboteau
trial as proof that "clearly demonstrated the capacity of the
Haitian judicial system to effectively adjudicate a massive case
involving human rights violations."
The World Organization Against Torture (WOAT), the New York
Chapter of the Lavalas Family party, and an art activist group
known as the Public Works Project are also part of the coalition
organizing the Dec. 13 action. Last week, the Public Works
Project produced 2000 large "wanted posters" bearing Constant's
photograph, which are being distributed and posted freely around
The "Send Toto Back" coalition has also presented testimony
before the New York City Council in February 1998. In August they
marched from Toto's house in Queens to a real estate agency where
he was working. Constant was subsequently fired. On Dec. 7, the
CCR, HRW, and WOAT sent a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno
and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright requesting "that the
United States government execute the outstanding final
deportation order" obtained by the INS against Constant in Dec.
1995. The CCR sent similar requests to Reno on Aug. 4 and Sep.
25, both of which are without reply.
"I am being persecuted," Constant complained to Haïti Progrès in
a Dec. 12 interview. "I think instead of demonstrations they
should come up with some proof about all those allegations they
have been making against me." Even without the 160,000 documents
held hostage by Washington, Haitian investigators have compiled
thick dossiers of affadavits and testimony linking Constant's
FRAPH to hundreds of human rights crimes including the arson of
hundreds of homes in the capital's Cité Soleil slum on Dec. 27,
1993 and killing demonstrators in a pro-democracy march on Sept.
30, 1994. Constant claims that the 1993 fires were set by Lavalas
agents and that FRAPH members were merely acting in self-defense
during the 1994 march. Still, he likes the limelight. "My
opponents, by trying to accuse me and pin something on me, not
only are they keeping Toto Constant alive politically, but also
they are giving people means to doubt what they are saying
against me. It was important for people to bring Toto Constant
down because I was getting extremely powerful in the country. Are
they scared of my political power? I don't mind that. Because
like Malcolm X said, better to have negative publicity than no
publicity at all."
Despite Constant's swagger and his continuing protection by U.S.
authorities, the "Send Toto Back" coalition intends to continue
its campaign. "We have to apply a maximum of pressure now before
the Clinton administration leaves office," said Ray Laforest.
"Because if Bush comes in, it will be even harder to send Toto
back. Constant was practically hatched by the Republicans who are
now so virulently opposed to incoming Haitian president Jean-
Bertrand Aristide. They will protect Constant tooth and nail."
"I traveled through South America years ago and wondered how Nazi
war criminals like Mengele and Barbie could be harbored there,"
said Michael Ratner, the CCR's vice president, who defended many
of the refugees who fled Haiti during the coup. "I told myself it
must be because they are corrupt dictatorships. Today, here in my
own country, I would like to think that we are a democracy which
does not harbor human-rights criminals."
To contact the "Send Toto Back" coalition, call the CCR at 212-
614-6429 or the HSN at 718-434-8100.
A REPLY TO DAN JOHANSSON
This week we publish a letter from one reader, Stan Goff, to
another, Dan Johansson, whose letter we published last week
protesting our article "The U.S. Political Crisis: What Does the
Republi-crat Vote Squabble Mean for Haiti?" (Vol. 18 No. 35, Nov.
Dan Johansson's letter taking exception to criticism's of the US
from a Haitian newspaper is fairly emblematic of the near total
cluelessness of many Americans -- often decent people with humane
motives, some of whom have spent time in Haiti, who have never
seen the forest for the trees. It's understandable. We Americans
are, in my experience travelling in five continents, the most
indoctrinated culture in the world.
History matters, and that's why Mr. Johansson's superficial and
inaccurate recital of history needs to be corrected. Haitian
people as a whole have good reason to "take an aggressive
attitude" with the United States government, because the policies
of that government have been the motive force behind most of
Haiti's problems throughout the 20th Century. These policies
included repeated military occupations, one that lasted 19 years
and virtually reinstituted slavery, the massive theft of Haitian
land to develop giant agribusiness complexes, and the employment
of those same violent regimes Mr. Johansson decries in his
letter. Haitians are not, as he states, ignoring history. They
are remaining wisely mindful of it. American troops are still
deployed in Haiti -- I was one of them in 1994 -- and the US
foreign policy establishment is still busily trying to subvert
Haitian democracy with a flood of slander, innuendo, and lies.
On the subject of the United States never having a bloody
transition to power, I would beg to differ. As Haïti Progrès
noted in its response, Lincoln, McKinley, and Kennedy were all
assassinated, and the American Civil War, in its time, was the
bloodiest conflagration in human history. What's further missing
in his paean to American peace and democracy are the inconvenient
facts of how our great material wealth was achieved, and at who's
expense. Conservatively, 5,000,000 indigenous people were killed
in the theft of native land by Europeans here. Tens of thousands
of Mexicans were killed in the conquest of the Southwest.
Millions of Africans were lost in the slave trade, and millions
more reduced to chattel. A million or so Filipinos were wiped out
to achieve the conquest of that nation from 1899-1906. 500,000
civilians we killed in the process of World War II, so we could
fill the Imperial vacuum left by France and Britain. 1,000,000
Koreans to consolidate that empire. 3,000,000 Southeast Asians in
Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. 1,500,000 Iraqis to maintain control
over the flow of Middle East oil. We haven't even begun to
include the neo-colonial surrogates, Pinochet, D'Abuisson,
Pahlavi, Suharto... Duvalier.
Mr. Johansson says the American system has worked well. I'm sure
it has... for some. But it's obvious that for millions and
millions of people, it has worked anything but "well." Haitians
are among that latter group.
Mr. Johansson says no one is happy about our present electoral
conundrum. Actually, I am. At last, we see the electoral college
system exposed for what it is -- an influence peddling scheme
hammered out in negotiations with slave states, who wanted
more-than-equal representation in our new Republic. Yes, sir, it
is indeed archaic. And the very notion being bandied around now,
by opportunistic Republicans, that it somehow protects the
interests of smaller states, is illogical on its face. When the
campaigns get rolling, where do the candidates concentrate their
largesse? Alaska? Montana, perhaps? West Virginia? Arkansas? Do
And the hallucination that America is the world's philanthropist!
We spend the smallest percentage of our overall budget on foreign
aid of any industrialized nation in the world. Where does the
majority of that go? Military Aid to Egypt, Israel, and Colombia
-- the latter two being the world's premier human rights
violators. This is where America's official checkbook is open.
Guns for thugs.
As for the vaunted two-party system, it strikes most of us as one
party with two competing factions. While there are some
differences, it must be noted that they are circumscribed by the
slavish dependence of both parties on giant corporations for the
lion's share of their campaign contributions. So every couple of
years we get to choose one of the two candidates that big
business has approved for us. Look at this race. Two rich guys,
both from political dynasties, and both invested up to their
eyeballs in petrochemical industries. If stepping out of this box
will bring "chaos" as Mr. Johansson suggests, a lot of us are
saying, bring it on.
So don't take it personal, sir. It's not you, the individual
American, with whom they are upset -- these ungrateful Davids
casting stones at the poor, beleaguered Goliath. It's our
Imperial government. Look past your official mythologies and your
knee-jerk ethnocentrism, and recognize that just because you may
have religious and altruistic motives, our government has not
behaved in a way that Jesus of Nazareth would have approved of.
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Please credit Haiti Progres.